By Kevin Webb
The Calgary Drop-In Centre (the DI) is a low barrier emergency shelter, serving Calgary’s most vulnerable. On an average night the DI has approximately 750 individuals sleeping at its single location emergency shelter. On average, the shelter welcomes approximately 100 new individuals each month.
The DI has made a commitment to individuals accessing its services to assist them in finding housing. This commitment was backed by an agency wide declaration and thoughtfully planned transformation to becoming a housing focused shelter. This means that the Centre is simultaneously trying to resolve a person’s homelessness while meeting their basic needs. With this new philosophy, the services, programs and policies are focused on individuals obtaining right-fit housing as quickly as possible, therefore, not staying in shelter for extended periods of time.
This process started with an agency wide declaration and shared vision, which then kicked off the Centre’s analysis of programming and supporting resources. When the team looked at the shelter’s present programming it was quickly evident that there was a great need for more resources in the housing areas and it was also determined that many current programs needed to be closed or redesigned. In doing this the agency was able to reallocate internal resources into more housing focused programs such, as Diversion, Case Management, Supportive Housing sleep areas. Each of the above programs were given key performance indicators which allowed for tracking success of the new shelter philosophy.
New to the shelter’s program offerings, was the creation of a Housing Hub. The Housing Hub is a resource area for individuals to obtain guidance and resources for obtaining housing. With the assistance of Ready to Rent and materials from RentSmart education, the team was able to create 1-page handouts for clients who only require light touch support to self-resolve their homelessness. These resources include:
- How to communicate with a landlord?
- Rights and Responsibilities
- How Do I Find Housing?
- Should I live with other People?
Since becoming a housing focused shelter, the DI has seen great success in individuals becoming housed which also resulted in their lowest emergency shelter numbers in years.
In 2018 the DI assisted in housing 326 individuals and reduced its chronic homelessness statistics by 22%
- Case Management housed 212 individuals
- The Housing Hub helped 48 individuals find housing
- Diversion housed 66 newly homeless people and provided light touch services for another 103 people who ended their own homelessness.
Iain De Jong of OrgCode states in his Dec 4, 2017 blog “Shelters are a critical piece of a high functioning system of care. But in order to achieve the objective of ending homelessness, the shelter has to maintain a housing-focus in all that it does. Otherwise, they become warehouses of waiting, or we run the risk of therapeutic incarceration.” (Jong, 2017)
By making the change to a housing focused shelter, all shelters can become part of their community’s system of care and assist in ending homelessness.
The DI is proud to be part of the high functioning system of care in Calgary and assisting individuals exit homelessness.